Taxi To The Dark Side

B+

Taxi To The Dark Side

A few days after 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Meet The Press, and when asked about the magnitude of America's response to the terrorist threat, he said, "We also have to work through, sort of, the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful." Half the title of Alex Gibney's Oscar-winning documentary Taxi To The Dark Side derives from Cheney's diabolical statement, while the "taxi" part refers to the story of Dilawar, an innocent rural Afghan cabbie tortured to death by American soldiers while he was detained at Bagram Air Base in 2002. In what would become standard operating procedure (see also: Standard Operating Procedure), a few "bad apples" were reprimanded for working in shadows that Cheney and other higher-ups had consciously created.

Having honed his investigative skills on documentaries like The Trials Of Henry Kissinger and Enron: The Smartest People In The Room, Gibney gets an impressive number of people on record, from those MPs directly involved in Dilawar's case to the men in Washington who helped formulate (and others who fought) interrogation standards that left a lot of room for interpretation. Gibney sees Dilawar's murder in Bagram as part of a virus that spread to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, where soldiers have enacted various forms of physical and psychological torture in the absence of a specific code of conduct. (Like, you know, the Geneva Conventions.) By anchoring the film to one case, Gibney allows himself the freedom to reach out and explore the larger forces behind this toxic policy while still tying it to specific victims like Dilawar and the soldiers who carried it out. With the torture issue off the table on the campaign trail this year—even John McCain, one of the film's heroes, has kept his distance—Taxi To The Dark Side is a reminder of the moral blight the next president will inherit.

Key features: A Gibney commentary track joins an overrun of interviews and outtakes.

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